A blupete Essay

Tradition and Prejudice, Part 5 to blupete's Essay
"On The Nature Of Man"

Habit, as Oliver Wendall Holmes has said, is "a labor-saving invention which enables a man to get along with less fuel." Habit comes naturally to man; and, habit "makes the custom." In turn, custom becomes the great guide to human life. "Customs, even the most foolish and the most cruel, have always their source in the real or apparent utility of the public."6 Some customs, we might safely conclude, are harmful, and, thus, not to be followed; but where left with a choice, habit or custom is more true than most anything else one might choose as a guide. Habit may be equated to prejudice; it is an impression or an inference which one has picked up, -- a person knows not when or how -- as likely as they are unavoidable, they are fair; they are taken from one's general observation, or past experiences. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a prejudice, as Edmund Burke has written, "it is natural and right."

"No wise man can have a contempt for the prejudices of others; and he should even stand in a certain awe of his own, as if they were aged parents and monitors. They may, in the end, prove wiser than he."7 (William Hazlitt.)
We lawyers have an expression, a legal maxim, Via trita via tuta, fancy Latin words meaning, "The trodden road is the safe road." Tradition is simply a set of evolved rules, rules for living. These rules grew spontaneously, that is to say, they have not by definition been deliberately designed by a mind; the origins of these moral traditional rules are obscured in the mists of past times. While the function of tradition has been to preserve an existing state of affairs, it, nonetheless, has allowed for culture to evolve; the growth of culture, in turn, has allowed for the growth of civilizations.8 Man has had no choice in this process, but that has not stopped him, during the course of the last couple of hundred years, to attempt to lend a hand in this natural process; man's attempts, however -- and History will show -- have done nothing but impede, or reverse the process of man's cultural development.


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Peter Landry

2011 (2020)